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India closely monitoring political turmoil in neighbouring Pakistan


New Delhi: India is closely monitoring the political turmoil in neighbouring Pakistan following an opposition-led movement that has targeted the current leadership of Pakistan Army, a firm backer of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Protests are taking place under the banner of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), which is led by Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Nawaz has accused the army leadership of harassing political opponents of the government.

“While this is essentially an internal movement in Pakistan, India as the next door neighbour and victim of cross-border terror is closely monitoring the developments,” an observer of Pakistani politics told ET. “It remains to be seen if the opposition can sustain this movement. The opposition leaders have no special feelings for India and their movement is essentially aimed at the current military leadership.”

The Pakistani Army is being attacked by opposition leaders, especially by Nawaz Sharif, in a manner it has never seen before. “In the past, several opposition leaders including the Bhutto family were ardent critics of the army. However, once in power, they accommodated the institution,” a source said. “In order to divert attention from the turmoil, the Khan government tried to deflect attention by playing the India card through the PM’s security adviser’s interview.”

The PDM, which was formed on September 20, has launched a three-phased anti-government movement under an “action plan” to oust the Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government.

Khan is “incapable and clueless”, and his government is worse than a dictatorship, PDM leaders said at its second rally held recently.

Under the plan, a number of rallies, public meetings and demonstrations will be held across the country, before a “decisive long march” to Islamabad in January next year.

Addressing the first rally via video link from London, former PM Nawaz Sharif had accused the military and Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI of being behind his ouster as premier and installing their “puppet government” by bringing Khan into power.

Sharif, the 70-year-old leader of the PML-N who was ousted from power in 2017 by the apex court on graft charges, for the first time directly named army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI head Lt Gen Faiz Hameed of interfering in the elections of 2018 to ensure Khan’s victory.

On Monday, the authorities arrested Maryam Nawaz’s husband and former army officer Capt Safdar Awan from a hotel in Karachi for “violating” the sanctity of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum.

PDM leaders termed the arrest a desperate act of intrigue to split the opposition political alliance of 11 parties. Addressing a joint press conference on Monday, the PDM leaders were unanimous in terming Awan’s arrest, not just an attack on PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, but on the entire PDM.

“The two rallies organised by the opposition PDM have attracted large crowds belying Imran Khan’s expectations,” Tilak Devasher, member of National Security Advisory Board and author of four books on Pakistan, told ET. “What will have to be watched is whether the PDM can stay united and if they can build on the momentum. The government will try every trick to destroy the unity and break the momentum. The clumsy arrest of Capt Safdar was one such example that backfired. The government is clearly spooked and likely to make more mistakes.”

The PDM plans to hold rallies in Quetta on October 25, Peshawar on November 22, Multan on November 30 and Lahore on December 13. Opposition leaders have announced that they would use all political and democratic options, including no-confidence motions and mass resignations from Parliament to seek “the selected” prime minister’s resignation.

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